Wood is an attractive and durable building material that has been used for centuries. It’s often used to create outdoor furniture, garage doors, exterior doors, front doors, and decorative items.

Wood is a beautiful natural material that needs care and maintenance to maintain its natural color and give maximum protection from UV rays.

One of the best ways to preserve the wood is to use a spar varnish to protect it from water damage and wear caused by exposure to the elements.

This blog post will discuss the best spar varnish for an exterior door and other wooden surfaces. But first off, let’s learn why use spar varnish.

Our Top Picks

Best Spar Varnish for Exterior Door

  1. Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar VarnishBest overall spar varnish
  2. Minwax, Gloss 63200444 Helmsman UrethaneBest varnish for wood furniture
  3. TotalBoat-486490 Lust Marine VarnishBest marine varnish for wood
  4. System Three 1855S16 Clear Marine SparBest exterior clear varnish
  5. Epifanes Wood Finish MatteBest varnish for exterior wood doors
  6. TotalBoat-482869 Lust Marine VarnishBest gloss varnish for wood
  7. McCloskey/Valspar Spar VarnishBest exterior varnish

Why Use a Spar Varnish?

You apply varnish to outdoor wooden furniture, exterior wood door types, and any other wood surface for the reasons below. 

Wood left outdoors will be subjected to a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions, plus a healthy dose of harmful UV rays.

These unforgiving elements help to degrade the typical exterior paint over time. Furthermore, due to humidity changes, wood expands and contracts, and a basic indoor finish would crack and wither away under these conditions.

On the other hand, spar varnishes are specially formulated to give the wood maximum UV Protection for extended periods. As a result, spar varnishes work excellently on exterior wooden surfaces, including the poles that support the sails of a boat.

The best spar varnish is strong enough to keep the surface protected from water and salt air and therefore helps the wood stand up to challenging conditions of marine life. 

Spar Varnishes are the perfect solution for anyone looking to protect their wood flooring, including interior wood. In addition, these varnishes make the wood surface more durable.

You can use them to achieve a matte and glossy shine, gloss or satin finish, gloss finish. Most spar varnishes are easier to use, even if you are not a professional woodworker. 

A quick wipe with a microfiber cloth or a natural bristle brush will remove any dirt or dust from the floor. This makes it easy to maintain your wood surfaces with regular care. 

Best Spar Varnish for Exterior Door Reviews

1. Best overall spar varnish – Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish

Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish, Quart, Gloss Clear
  • Ideal for use on exterior wood surfaces above the water line, including trim, railings and wood furniture
  • Oil-based formula expands and contracts with changing weather conditions
  • Dries to the touch in 2 hours and covers up to 150 sq. ft.

Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish is a versatile oil-based varnish that has the divine ability to shrink and expand as the weather changes without cracking.

The formula can withstand even the most severe weather. In addition, it produces a long-lasting finish, and that’s why we’ve included it in this comprehensive list of the best spar varnish for exterior wood. 

This clear coat is resistant to salt, mildew, and ultraviolet rays. It leaves surfaces shiny and clean and protects them from moisture and water damage.

It gives you a warm golden glow that will last for years. Each coating takes about two hours to dry, but it’s worth the wait in the long run. Use on exterior wooden surfaces above the waterline, such as trim, railings, and wood furniture.

You can also use it on your wooden boat to give it an impressive clear finish and protect it from sunlight, sea spray, and chemicals. It’s the best marine spar varnish because it is twice as durable as other traditional wood finishes.

You could try it for your marine varnish projects, and you’ll be satisfied with the results. You can dilute it with paint thinners and apply thin coats if you need to.

What We Liked Most

  • It works excellently on exterior doors, bare wood, and other wood surfaces
  • It’s durable and offers maximum sun, mildew, and salt protection
  • It gives the wood a warm, golden glow

What Could Be Improved

  • It takes longer to dry
  • It produces an upsetting odor

2. Best varnish for wood furniture – Minwax, Gloss 63200444 Helmsman Spar Urethane

Minwax Water Based Helmsman Spar Urethane, Quart, Satin
  • PROTECTIVE CLEAR FINISH – Minwax Helmsman Water Based Spar Urethane is a crystal clear wood finish that is specially formulated to protect against nature’s toughest conditions.
  • EFFECTIVE YEAR ROUND – This wood varnish forms a protective barrier against rain and moisture to protect your projects and keep them looking their best. Special oils allow the finish to expand & contract with the wood as seasons and temperatures change.
  • VERSATILE – Ideal for use on doors, windows, trim, bathroom cabinets, bar tops, kitchen countertops, outdoor furniture and more. It’s a versatile water-based spar urethane that dries quickly and cleans up easily with warm water.

If you are looking for a water-based formula that leaves the surfaces shiny, buying this product could be a big step in the right direction. It gives your wooden surface a high gloss finish.

You can use it on bare wood, exterior doors, moldings, paneling, accessories, and other wooden surfaces. Apply varnish with a high-quality natural bristle brush.

Allow it to dry for one day before use. Strictly follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions when cleaning with mineral spirits or paint thinner.

Follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions when cleaning with mineral spirits or paint thinner. In addition, it contains ultraviolet light absorbers to minimize fading and fading effects of the hot sun.

The formula gives the surfaces maximum protection against moisture and rain. It also has unique oils that enable the spar urethane to expand and contract with the wood without cracking. 

l. It’s simple to use and adds just the right amount of radiance. It does well on a wooden boat, and you can also use it on planking, rudder, and ribs. The gloss varnish works wonders on outdoor wood furniture  

If you want superb protection, you can apply six to eight coatings, but four coats are all you need to get the job done. The gloss varnish will offer the wood superb UV protection and can last up to two or three years before you need to recoat. 

You have a lot of options for container sizes and sheen. For an interior design, you may prefer smooth satin. Be sure to mix the spar urethane thoroughly if you want a satin finish you’ve been dreaming about for years.

What We Liked Most

  • Easy to use
  • It’s available in different sizes and sheens
  • Offers superior UV protection

What Could Be Improved

  • Cleanup might be challenging if you ignore instructions

3. Best marine varnish for wood – TotalBoat-486490 Lust Marine Varnish

TotalBoat-486490 Lust Marine Varnish, High Gloss and Matte...
1,089 Reviews
TotalBoat-486490 Lust Marine Varnish, High Gloss and Matte...
  • MARINE GRADE VARNISH imparts a rich, clear amber tone that enhances wood grain; creates a durable, uv resistant, waterproof finish that won't fade; ideal for interior and exterior wood, brightwork on boats & outdoor furniture
  • CLASSIC SPAR VARNISH WITH A MODERN TWIST: High-build, fast-drying formula allows rapid recoating, multiple coats per day and no sanding between coats; sand lightly before the final coat - be done in a little over 1 day
  • FLEXIBLE COATING WON'T CRACK OR PEEL: Premium, oil-based marine polyurethane finish is not damaged when wood expands and contracts with changes in temperature; perfect for all types of wood

If you need a marine-grade spar varnish that offers a long-lasting, waterproof finish, this product could be ideal for you. It won’t fade with time, and it’s suitable for exterior wood and outdoor furniture.

This oil-based premium formula allows for rapid recoating, so you can apply several coats per day and finish your project in no time. In addition, you do not have to sand between the coats.

All you have to do is sand lightly before applying the final coat. When using this product, you finish your project stress-free in a little over one day. It is one of the best marine spar varnish ideal for marine and outdoor wood furniture.

It resists warping as the wood contracts and expands with inevitable temperature changes. You can choose between a high gloss finish or a matte finish.

It cures to a gleaming amber finish. Using this high-build formula is economical as it reduces the number of coats you need to apply to get the type of protection you want.

And the good news is that you can thin it with paint thinner to get more coverage. In addition, it gives doors exposed to elements superior protection for maximum durability. 

What We Liked Most

  • It saves time because you don’t have to sand between coats
  • It has a rich, clear amber tone
  • Waterproof finish that will not fade
  • It’s simple to use and adds a lovely natural glow to the wood
  • It has an excellent, extensive uniform coverage

What Could Be Improved

  • You’ve to thin it if you’re a beginner

4. Best exterior clear varnish – System Three 1855S16 Clear Marine Spar Urethane Varnish Coating

System Three Marine Spar Varnish, Satin, 1 Qt Can
  • Premium Varnish: Our marine varnish is a high-build coating designed for use as a marine epoxy and exterior wood varnish on surfaces like railings, doors or any surface where a clear, durable gloss finish is desired
  • Features: Formulated to provide exceptional exterior durability for the most demanding environments, this spar varnish contains state-of-the-art UV absorbers designed to keep wood looking beautiful even with constant exposure to strong sunlight
  • Versatile Application: Use a high-quality, natural bristle varnish brush to apply the varnish to boats, outdoor furniture or doors

If you are looking for a marine spar varnish containing ultraviolet light absorbers ideal for the marine and exterior wooden surfaces, this product could be suitable.

It’s available in a high gloss finish and smooth satin finish. In addition, it contains high solid content and is VOC compliant, so you do not have to worry about your safety when using this product.

Follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions to be on the safe side. It provides excellent protection against salt air, sea spray, and water.

The ultraviolet light absorbers keep wood stunning even when exposed to direct sunlight and outdoor elements every day. This spar varnish is also resistant to regular cleaners and solvents, making it excellent for exterior doors. 

The varnish dries to a clear, tough finish resistant to fading and chipping, making it ideal for use on doors, trim, and other surfaces. The product is packaged in a one-quart container.

You can spray it onto a surface and save yourself the energy you would if you apply it with a roller or brush. In addition, you’ll get a smooth satin without breaking your back.

What We Liked Most

  • It has different application methods
  • You can choose the type of finish you want
  • Offers superb water, salt, and UV protection
  • It’s VOC compliant
  • It dries quickly
  • It’s durable

What Could Be Improved

  • You have to understand the appropriate proportions when thinning it to avoid bubbles

5. Best varnish for exterior wood doors – Epifanes Wood Finish Matte

Epifanes Wood Finish Matte (500 ml) Package may Vary
  • High build, hard matte finish without sanding between coats. (if recoated within 72 hours)
  • Soft matte beauty with outstanding U.V. protection for teak and other fine hardwoods.
  • One component varnish based on phenolic-modified alkyd resin and tung oil.

If you are searching for top-of-the-range marine grade marine spar varnish, Epifanes wood finish matte fits the bill. It’s the best marine spar varnish. That’s why it has made it to our list of marine varnishes reviews.

Epifanes clear varnish is ideal for finishing teak wood due to its unmatched waterproofing capabilities. In addition, it has a satin finish and the correct amount of sheen, just enough to bring out the natural beauty of teak and other woods.

The varnish also offers optimal mildew protection. However, it can be challenging to apply the finish. Be sure to apply it evenly in one coat and so faster. You may not need to thin it with mineral spirits to use it effectively.

Nevertheless, thin it and sand lightly after the first coat if it gets blotchy. Keep in mind that it takes longer to dry if you thin it. It’s a single component spar varnish based on phenolic-modified alkyd resin and tung oil.

You can use it on fine woods and over any wood finish that’s not cracking or flaking. It’ll provide an incredible smooth satin protective coat that could last up to five long years.

Though it’s a marine-grade varnish, it looks elegant on an exterior door, furniture, and any other wood surface, whether indoor or outdoor.

You may not have seen anything like it yet. To finish the exterior wood door and other doors exposed to the elements, apply three coats of Epifanes Clear finish, and it lasts for a long time.

What We Liked Most

  • It brings out the natural beauty of wood effortlessly
  • It gives you an excellent satin finish
  • It brings out the natural beauty of the wood beautifully
  • Reasonably priced

What Could Be Improved

  • It’s not friendly to beginners

6. Best gloss varnish for wood – TotalBoat-482869 Lust Marine Varnish

TotalBoat-482869 Lust Marine Varnish, High Gloss and Matte...
  • MARINE GRADE VARNISH imparts a rich, clear amber tone that enhances wood grain; creates a durable, uv resistant, waterproof finish that won't fade; ideal for interior and exterior wood, brightwork on boats & outdoor furniture
  • CLASSIC SPAR VARNISH WITH A MODERN TWIST: High-build, fast-drying formula allows rapid recoating, multiple coats per day and no sanding between coats; sand lightly before the final coat - be done in a little over 1 day
  • FLEXIBLE COATING WON'T CRACK OR PEEL: Premium, oil-based marine polyurethane finish is not damaged when wood expands and contracts with changes in temperature; perfect for all types of wood

TotalBoat is a well-known brand in the marine sector when it comes to paints and spar varnishes. I consider basic factors such as durability, shine, and value for your hard-earned cash. This is the company’s best offering.

An incredible marine-grade spar varnish lends a clear amber tone that amplifies wood’s natural grain. In addition, it creates a durable waterproof finish that will not fade with time.

It’s perfect for interior and exterior wood, outdoor furniture, and brightwork on boats. The varnish is a premium oil-based formula and won’t flake or peel as wood expands and shrinks with the ever-changing temperatures.

You can use it on all types of marine projects and household wood. You can choose between a matte finish or a high gloss finish. If you want a high gloss finish, apply six to eight coats of lust gloss.

The product is available in different sizes, so you can pick the one that suits your budget. It’s a bit thick. Thin it out to at least fifty percent for professional results. You need some experience to use it stress-free.

It gives the surfaces maximum protection that typical varnishes you can only dream about when using typical varnishes. Use a roller and apply up to five coats. Recoat every two hours throughout the day.

Thin the final coats by not more than ten percent. It may be challenging to apply it at that point, but you’ll reap the benefits thereafter.

What We Liked Most

  • It comes in different sizes
  • It’s available in different sheen
  • Excellent luster and sheen
  • excellent durability

What Could Be Improved

  • Short shelf life

7. Best exterior varnish – McCloskey/Valspar Spar Varnish

McCloskey/Valspar Spar Varnish - # 7505 Man O' War - 1...
  • Maximum U.V. Protection/Extra protection from sun and weather
  • Use on interior and exterior wood surfaces to protect and beautify for years to come
  • Water Resistant/Prevents Weather Damage - Clear Satin Finish

If you are looking for a clear satin finish that will give you maximum UV protection and exceptional durability without breaking your bank, this could be the product you’ve been searching for far and wide.

It’s pocket-friendly, reliable, and is good, just like other popular brands. Apply it to interior and exterior wood surfaces to protect and beautify them for years as it’s resistant to water and weather damage.

Use it on handrails, outdoor wood furniture, frames, interior wood window sills, planters, and boat wood trim (above the waterline). It’s simple to apply. Use a high-quality bristle brush. Even a good quality foam brush will do.

It sets quickly. You’ll handle your project within 5- 7 hours but be cautious. It’ll take a whole day to cure. Apply three coats. Sand lightly between coats with 200-280 grit sandpaper and apply the fourth coat if you need to.

It’ll enhance the tones of the wood, and you’ll be satisfied with the results. It’s the go-to option for outdoor wood finishings. It’ll make exterior wooden surfaces explode with deep rich colors.

You can opt to wait for weeks before applying the second coat, and the surfaces will look too nice to be left out in the open. It spreads like water and absorbs deeply into the grain. You couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

This product is very protective of the wooden chocks and has a fairly low-level shine that looks decent in historic buildings.

It emits a strong odor, so use it in a well-ventilated environment. However, The finished product will be worth the scent anguish.

What We Liked Most

  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • Works as advertised

What Could Be Improved

  • It emits a strong odor

Best Spar Varnish for Exterior Door Comparison Table

Factors to Consider When Buying Spar Varnish for Exterior Door

Whether you need to finish an ancient door or have to paint a new garage door, picking the best spar varnish for your unique project can be daunting.

There are many options in the market, each claiming to be a good fit for your project, making you feel overwhelmed. We understand your pain points.

That’s why we are giving you the factors you need to consider when selecting a spar varnish for your exterior door. 

Types of Varnish

Two types of varnish exist in the market today. You can go for any o them based on your project and the amount of cash you are willing to part with. These varnishes are:

Oil-based or water-based varnish

Oil-based varnishes are available in spray and brush-on forms, producing a tough protective shell in fewer coats than water-based varnishes.

It might leave a subtle yellow sheen, particularly when multiple coatings are applied, but this may be preferred in some applications. They dry slowly.

One coat can dry in two hours. Additional coats might take four to six hours based on the weather. Some of these varnishes may emit strong, pungent odors, and some people find that offensive.

Nonetheless, the odor disappears when the varnish has fully cured. You need to use paint thinner or mineral spirits to clean up oil-based varnishes.

Oil-based varnishes are self-leveling, which implies that they will smooth out when applied to horizontal surfaces.

Water-based Varnishes

Water-based varnishes use water rather than solvents as the base for carrying the varnishes’ solids. Water-based varnishes form a tough protective film just like their oil-based counterparts, but you need more applications.

They dry quickly. So, you can apply many coats at once. Water-based varnishes start milky white in the can but will dry clear.

The water-based varnish adds very little, if any, color. In addition, the varnishes are a low odor and need only warm water and soap to clean.

Recommended read: Varnish vs poly.

Gloss or sleek satin sheen

Know the type of sheen you are after before spending a dime on a spar varnish for exterior wooden surfaces such as exterior doors or garage doors.

Do you need a sleek satin sheen or a high gloss finish? Opt for a sleek satin if you like a matte finish over a little shine. Then, you can add more coats to achieve the ideal matte sheen to your exterior door.

Nonetheless, if you prefer a stylish and shiny surface on the exterior of your home, pick a glossy finish. The type of sheen you get with every product is indicated on the packaging can.

Coverage area

Before purchasing any marine varnish, you should know its coverage area. A single coat of the best spar varnish can cover an extensive area.

If you want to finish a door without spending time and cash, go for varnish with a massive coverage area. The coverage area is indicated on the can.

Dry and cure time

Cure and dry times are crucial when picking the best varnish for your project. In addition, they determine the amount o time it’ll take to complete a project.

The longer a varnish takes to dry, the longer you’ll be stuck with it, and the margin for errors increases with a long cure time. That’s because if a project takes longer to dry, a child or a pet can scratch it, accidentally leaving unwanted marks.

Fast-drying formulas enable you to complete your projects fast with minimal room for mishaps.


Best spar varnishes are made with high-quality ingredients that won’t yellow your project. Varnishes are in different colors, so you are always spoilt for choice.

However, if you care so much about a product yellowing your project, play safe and grab clear finishes as they also work excellently without interfering with the current color.

Salt and mildew resistant

Strong UV rays and heat and light from direct sunlight can damage your home’s exterior wooden doors. They make the wood fade and crack as the wood expands and contracts.

This could detract from your home’s curb appeal and be aggravating to deal with. The best spar varnish for the exterior door should contain UV inhibitors to protect the doors from damage occasioned by exposure to UV rays and light.

Keep an eye out for this feature if you reside in coastal areas. 

Environment safe

To determine whether a product is safe for the environment, look out for the VOC levels. The ideal varnish should have low VOC levels that authorities recommend to guarantee the environment’s safety, pets, and kids.

Remember, some spar varnishes are extremely flammable. So, keep them out of children’s reach, open flames, sparks,  hot surfaces, and direct heat.

Applying Spar Varnish

Exterior doors such as garage doors and your front door have a distinct sense of attraction and beauty. They can be an eye-catching method of making a statement about your home and give guests a sense of what awaits them inside your home.

However, outside wood is exposed to humidity, strong UV rays, and moisture from rain or snow.

You apply exterior varnish to fortify exterior wooden surfaces against mother nature’s wrath that interior doors do not have to grapple with.

These vanishes have a higher alkyd resin ratio making them a bit versatile. Here’s what you need before applying spar varnish

Get some protection

When working with spar varnishes, always take precautions. Wear what you do not mind staining.

Wear protective clothing such as gloves, goggles, and face masks if the varnish you are working with emits VOC and strong odors. Work in well-ventilated environments. 

Tools and Requirements

You should varnish when the temperature range is between 70°F and 80°F. Too much heat will cause your varnish to dry very quickly, resulting in air bubbles.

The drying process will be slowed if the temperature is too low, giving dirt more time to adhere. You only need a few supplies available at your local paint stores. You will require

  • A natural bristle brush 
  • A small stick (for stirring)
  • Spar varnish 
  • A transparent measuring cup 
  • Paint thinners such as turpentine or mineral spirits

Invest in a high-quality natural bristle brush or foam brush to avoid struggling with stray bristles immersed in the varnish. Stray bristles can ruin your results.

Do not bother cleaning these brushes. They are affordable Just toss them and always use clean new brushes in your applications. 

The Procedure For Applying the Varnish

You are now ready to begin applying the spar varnish. Follow the steps below to finish your outdoor wooden furniture ready to use within the drying time specified.

Step 1: Stir the varnish slowly

Avoid shaking the varnish can. Instead, open it as slowly as you can. Use the stirring stick to stir gently but thoroughly. If you stir quickly and roughly, you may create air bubbles. Avoid creating bubbles because they can significantly impact your results.

Step 2: Thin the varnish

Use a paint thinner, thin up the varnish. Then pour a small amount of varnish into the small measuring cup. How much should you pour? The size of your wooden surface determines it.

However, the rule of thumb is to start with a small amount because you can always add more later. Then add some paint thinner and stir with a stick to make a mixture.

Also, cautiously stir the mixture. When applying the first coat, experts recommend making it 20-25 percent thinner. And for successive coats, aim for 5-10%.

For example, if you’re going to fill three-quarters of the cup with varnish for the first coat, pour in one-quarter of the thinner. Then, combine one ounce of thinner for the subsequent coats with approximately nine ounces of varnish.

Step 3: Lightly brush the spar varnish on

Dip only the tip of the brush into your mixture. Gently spread the mixture of outdoor wooden furniture. Follow the direction of the wood grain when applying the varnish.

Avoid brushing back and forth. Instead, apply each board at a time in full length. Keep your brush wet by dipping it into the varnish mixture.

Step 4: Tip-off with a brush

It’s time to tip off now that you’ve covered up the entire area. Desist from dipping your brush again, and begin brushing softly once more. Point the brush at a corner and draw precise straight lines.

As previously stated, work in the direction of the wood’s grain. Repeat this process throughout the area. This will smooth the wood surface and prevent the formation of bubbles and undesired streaks.

Step 5: Apply additional coats and sand

With just one coat, your project is incomplete. Most woods left outdoors necessitate several coats, with intervals in between. Give the varnish six to ten hours to dry after applying the first coat.

You know it is dry if it does not feel sticky. Apply the second in a similar way and give it ample time to dry. Use 320 grit sandpaper for sanding the wood surface. 

If the sandpaper becomes clogged, your varnish hasn’t fully dry. Give it a few more hours before trying again. Apply one more coat after sanding. Nevertheless, apply a few more coats for massive outdoor wood projects to ensure proper varnishing.

Step 6: Let it cure

After applying the final coat, give the varnish all the time it needs to cure for maximum durability and protection.

Read further to know the Difference Between Polyurethane and Spar Urethane.


What’s the best finish for an exterior door?

Choose a semi-gloss finish that is both durable and appealing. Exterior varnishes are available in various sheens, such as matte, high gloss, satin, and semi-gloss. Semi-gloss is perfect for front doors because it is more resistant to wear and staining than matte sheens.

Can spar varnish be used outdoors?

Spar varnish is intended to provide durable protection for wood left outdoors. It is made to withstand harsh elements and protect your wood. So, regardless of how the weather and other factors affect your outdoor wood, if it’s finished with spar varnish, it can withstand them all. Some varnishes contain teak oil for outdoor furniture protection.

How many coats spar varnish exterior door?

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the number of coats you need to apply on exterior doors. It depends on the varnish you’re using and the type of wood you’re working on.

How to remove spar varnish from wood?

Apply a coat of poly remover on the wood surface. Use a chemical stripper to brush in one direction. Let the chemical stripper sit for twenty to thirty minutes. Sand the surface with 220 grit sandpaper. Scrape the varnish off the wood. Wash the surface with mild detergents and rinse thoroughly to remove any chemical residue. 


Outdoor wood is constantly battling with temperature and humidity changes that interior wood has no idea about. Your exterior wood can’t fight for if you use typical varnish.

The shrinking and the swelling will break down the typical wood within no time, exposing the wood to the elements. You need to use the best spar varnish for exterior door to give the exterior wooden surfaces a fighting chance. 

Our top pick is Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish. It’s simple to use, durable, offers maximum wood protection from mildew, water, and salt, and you can use it on multiple surfaces. 

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